PM restates her unionism, but makes seamless border vow

The prime minister in Belfast yesterday emphasised her unionism.

Saturday, 21st July 2018, 10:02 am
Updated Saturday, 21st July 2018, 10:08 am
Morning View

This is something Theresa May has done several times before and something her predecessor David Cameron also emphasised.

It was an important moment in the history of the Province and also an important symbolic moment in Brexit.

She has used the visit to outline her latest thinking on the exact nature of the UK’s departure from the EU.

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But while prime ministers are always welcome in Northern Ireland, and while unionists will be particularly welcoming to a prime minister who restates her unionism, the problem is that yesterday’s speech was emphatic against an Irish Sea border and emphatic that there will be no hard land border. How can this be achieved amid EU inflexibility and how will London react if it rejects Chequers?

Mrs May said yesterday “the seamless border is a foundation stone on which the Belfast Agreement rests, allowing for the ‘just and equal treatment for the identity, ethos and aspirations of both communities’. Anything that undermines that is a breach of the spirit of the Belfast Agreement”. She also said: “We remain absolutely committed to including a legally operative backstop in the Withdrawal Agreement.”

What she has not said is that if talks fail avoidance of an internal border will be top priority, as it would be for any country before any commitments beyond its territory.